The Chilean capital city of Santiago is strategically placed in the centre of the country’s most influential Central Valley wine region, where scores of internationally renowned vineyards can be easily reached in every direction.
The city’s prime location makes it an ideal base for intrepid wine enthusiasts to stay and plan daily visits to various sub-regions from. Visitors can sample premium Santiago wine from respected estates in the surrounding valleys, which include Maipo, San Antonio, Casablanca, Cachapoal and Colchagua – all of which can be reached within a two-hour drive of the capital.
Each of these wine growing areas, which range from the traditional to aspiring boutique estates using state of the art facilities, have their own set of environmental conditions and personality – leading to a diverse assortment of styles from the Santiago, Chile wine region. Chile is most highly regarded for its red wine blends that typically partner the country’s signature Cabernet Sauvignon with grapes such as Merlot, Carmenere or Pinot Noir to produce elegant, complex wines that are also outstanding value.
And, in more recent times, cool climate vineyards have been successfully innovating to create some of the world’s finest Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, as well as some impressive aromatics. To help you decide which Santiago wine region best accommodates your tastes, here is an overview of Chile’s finest wine varieties and where to find them:
Cabernet Sauvignon is the country’s most widely planted grape, which is renowned for its light bodied style with dark fruit flavours of black cherry and plum with smoked pepper undertones. The Maipo Valley is Chile’s largest producer of Cabernet Sauvignon, while more refined Bordeaux-styles can be found in the Colchagua and Rapel Valleys.
The Chardonnay from Chile has been compared to that grown in California’s Napa Valley, except with more acidity as a consequence of the cool ocean breezes from Pacific. Arguably the finest examples are being produced in the Casablanca Valley north of Santiago. Chile’s Sauvignon Blanc is another white wine variety that his highly reverred on the international stage. Known for its zesty, mineral tones and white fruit flavours of lemon, peach and grapefruit, the Casablanca, San Antonio and Leyda Valleys are where to venture in search of the best whites from the Santiago wine region.
The grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere, Petit Verdot and Malbec are often united to create Chile’s answer to the classic Bordeaux blend, which is responsible for some of South America’s most renowned wines. The country’s oldest wine growing region Maipo remains the best place to sample premium blends. Carmenere was originally believed to be Merlot when it first arrived in Chile, although the greatest difference between the two light bodied styles is Carmenere’s penchant for peppery and cocoa powder flavours that make it an ideal accompaniment for food pairings. The Cachapoal and Colchagua Valleys are the best places to try single varietal Carmenere.
The Pinot Noir from Chile is typically associated with smooth textures and low tannins while flavours include black cherry, plums, and floral aromas of bergamont. Santiago wine regions that are successful with growing Chardonnay often also have a predilection for fine Pinot Noir – and the styles coming from Casablanca, San Antonio and the Leyda Valley seem to prove that point. Although all of these areas can be visited during different day tours from Santiago, there are also more comprehensive experiences across the Central Valley, which include elaborate tastings at several vineyards, luxury stays, fine dining opportunities and some unique outdoor activities.
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